One of the winter visitors in my area is the Bufflehead, a small sea duck. Today I saw a few of these energetic ducks in Cape May, so I wanted to feature them this week (a post about today’s Cape May trip is coming soon). Here are 5 interesting facts about Buffleheads.
- Buffleheads are one of the smallest ducks, at 13.5 inches in length. Adult males have black backs, white bodies, dark heads, and a large white patch that circles around the back of the head. Although their head looks black from a distance, they have a glossy purple and green iridescence that shines in the light. Females and immature males are gray-brown with large white patches on their cheeks.
- Their genus name Bucephala, comes from the Greek word “boukephalos”, meaning “bullheaded”. This name is used to describe the duck’s oddly bulbous heads.
- Due to their small size, Buffleheads almost exclusively nest in Northern Flicker cavities and sometimes Pileated Woodpecker cavities. They may use the same nest site for many years.
- Buffleheads are diving ducks. In order to dive they compress their plumage to squeeze out the air and plunge into the water. They keep their wings close to their bodies while diving. Sometimes they swallow their food, which is mainly crustaceans and aquatic invertebrates, while still underwater.
- They are one of the few ducks that are monogamous, and may stay with their mate for many years.